Guardian gets Pulitzers, Sun gets jail, claims MacKenzie
Former Sun editor attacks Anne Diamond and The Guardian at Leveson inquiry
FORMER Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie was on typically combative form as he addressed the Leveson Inquiry into press standards today. The man behind headlines such as 'Gotcha' and the Sun's infamous coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, said that tabloid reporters were unfairly maligned and cast doubt on the evidence of previous inquiry witnesses, including Anne Diamond.
He told Lord Leveson that the public's views of editorial integrity varied according to the paper in question.
"People view the Sun at the bottom of the pile," he said before attacking The Guardian over its incorrect claim that the voicemails of murder victim Milly Dowler had been erased by News of the World reporters. Surrey police said last month the paper's allegation, which led to the closure of the Sunday tabloid, was wrong.
MacKenzie said that if the Sun had made that error then it "would have come very, very close to being shut down". He added: "If you publish it in the Sun you get six months' jail and if you publish it in the Guardian you get a Pulitzer prize."
Last year TV presenter Anne Diamond told the inquiry her privacy had been invaded by the Sun after the death of her young son. MacKenzie disagreed and said Rupert Murdoch had never instructed the paper to "go after" anyone.
He said of former witnesses: "They seem to remember conversations 20 years ago; I don't."
However, he then contradicted himself by recalling a row with Prime Minister John Major in which he said he was going to throw "a bucket of shit" over him in 1992. "He was no Thatcher," he added.
Asked for his recommendations on press regulation, MacKenzie said that papers were commercial enterprises and told Leveson: "I think the threat of financial penalty will have a straightforward effect on newspapers."
However, he also claimed that it was very hard to establish the facts of a story when journalists were constantly being lied to. Leveson agreed, but said it was no excuse for "not having a go" at establishing the truth. ·